A very useful summary by The Week. No reputable or knowledgeable source says it isn't torture. and there is simply no question that it is illegal - which is why the Bush administration went to such lengths to get war criminals like AEI's John Yoo to argue that the president is bound by no laws and no treaties in the war on terror. But its impact in poisoning and distorting vital intelligence is also crucial to understand. Money quote:
When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, was waterboarded, he revealed valuable details about the operations of al Qaida, the Bush administration says. But CIA agents say Mohammed also “confessed’’ that al Qaida was plotting to kill former presidents Clinton and Carter and Pope John Paul II, making them realize that he was inventing sensational information to satisfy his interrogators. Another al Qaida operative who was waterboarded, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libbi, blurted out details about the connection between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein, saying that Iraq had trained terrorists in the use of chemical and biological weapons. But al-Libbi later recanted, and the CIA concluded that he “had no knowledge of such training or weapons, and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.”
We traded our soul for bad intelligence. The perpetrators need to be brought to justice.